Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

November 24, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014)
123 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Grade: C

From the perspective of the studios, yes it makes sense to split the final book up into two films. But other than that, it doesn’t make much sense. It sort of worked for the Harry Potter franchise, but there is a lot more material in those novels than The Hunger Games trilogy. Because of this factor alone, Mockingjay Part 1 suffers tremendously as a stand-alone film.

Picking up right where the last film left off, Katniss is still recovering from her last battle royale where she, and a few others, were rescued when she fired an arrow that brought down the death coliseum. But from those who were rescued, Peeta wasn’t one of them and that’s number one on Katniss’ priority list. She is chosen to be the symbol of the rebellion, led by President Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as they’re functioning inside a secret bunker of District 13. With Katniss as the rebellion’s symbol, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) uses Peeta as a tool to convince Katniss and the rebels that a war isn’t wise. The two exchange a cat-and-mouse game of inspiring and informational videos to the other districts, hoping to influence the remaining citizens.

Not a lot happens in Mockingjay Part 1, which is expected for a single novel to be split into two parts. There is a lot of setting up here, especially watching how Katniss slowly develops an eagerness to unite the rebels together against President Snow and the capital. That’s the only path the film can take when there isn’t a lot of material, but for what it’s worth it’s quite good. Jennifer Lawrence definitely has the acting chops to pull her weight as Katniss goes through her transformation, and it helps that she’s surrounded by the likes of Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, and Julianne Moore. But the movie lacks any true uplifting moments that you usually get when you have a group of underdogs fighting against the evil empire. Needless to say, there’s no heart in Mockingjay Part 1.

Sure, there is a lot of story left to tell including the chaotic scenes when the rebels and the capital clash, but all we get in Part 1 is a lot of depressing shots of dirty faces as their hopes of freedom are quickly fading. Also, I thought the way the film ended was a questionable one as it doesn’t really leave you with a cliffhanger conclusion. Instead, it leaves you wondering where the last two hours went. I don’t mind it when books are split up into two or three movies, but they have to be a good enough film to stand alone without the fact that there will be a sequel. Mockingjay Part 1 is a bad example of books being split into films.

Not everything is bad in Part 1, but there isn’t enough good to save it from feeling like a very long trailer leading up to the real film. The romance between Katniss and Gale wasn’t even convincing like it was in the novels. It’s a shame that the Twilight series can showcase a better love triangle dilemma than the superior The Hunger Games franchise, but that’s the downfall here. I’m sure Mockingjay Part 2 is going to be right back up to par with the first two films of the franchise, but Part 1 is most certainly the dud.

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The 86th Annual Academy Awards

March 4, 2014

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Another Oscars telecast is in the books, and overall I felt it was a fine ceremony from start to finish. No, not everything went smoothly, and no, not every joke and skit worked as planned, but there isn’t a such thing as a great telecast. There are only ones that survive until the end where you’re not pissed off as the credits are rolling, and I was not pissed off by any means.

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Ellen did a fine job as a host, mostly staying within her comfort zone during her monologue and never really doing anything too whacky. Sure, the pizza skit got a bit old really quick, but it had Ellen written all over it. Who else would order three pizza pies and collect hundreds of dollars from Weinstein and Brad Pitt afterwards? Her finest moment was taking the star-studded selfie and actually crashing twitter by asking viewers to retweet. Her skits and improv certainly appealed to the younger viewers, but her class and general entertainment was fit for everyone.

Awards-wise, there really weren’t many, if any, surprises. Here are the things I was most happy about at the end of the night.

1. Spike Jonze wins Best Original Screenplay for Her.

This was the award I found myself rooting the hardest for. I absolutely loved Her and this was the best shot it had to win an Oscar. It was up against American Hustle, which many people had winning since The Academy seems to love David O. Russell, yet they don’t feel the need to reward him yet. That’s right, David O. Russell has now been nominated for 5 Oscars (just in the past three years!) and hasn’t won anything yet.

 

2. Gravity winning 7 Oscars

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My favorite film of the year truly displayed how dominant of a movie it was at the Oscars. With 10 nominations and 7 wins, there wasn’t a movie that could come close to the amount of golden statues leaving in Gravity’s limo. Sure, the film didn’t end up winning the big award, but it was clearly a dominant force throughout the entire ceremony.

3. American Hustle lays a goose egg

For the record, I did enjoy American Hustle very much… I just feel that it’s over-rated. The Academy seemed to be in love with American Hustle and I simply couldn’t understand why. There have been two movies on Oscar history to receive 11 nominations, but walked out empty-handed. American Hustle walked out empty-handed with 10 nominations. I guess the love wasn’t strong enough.

4. Catherine Martin and Alfonso Cuaron are big winners

The only individuals in the night to win two Oscars apiece were Martin and Cuaron. Martin is familiar with winning two Oscars in one night, as she did the same thing in 2002 by winning the same two categories for her work in Moulin Rouge! Meanwhile, Cuaron finally won his first and second Oscars for Best Director and Film Editing.

5. 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture

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It was quite uncertain towards the end if 12 Years a Slave would be able to put an end to Gravity’s dominance, but when Will Smith opened the envelope and announced the Best Picture, the 12 Years a Slave camp jumped with joy. It was definitely deserving, and it also proves that The Academy still sides with emotionally driven films rather than visual masterpieces. So we’ll have to wait longer until the first 3-D film wins Best Picture, but history was still made with the win to 12 Years a Slave.

These are my other favorite moments from the night:

1. The Star-Studded Selfie

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Ellen asked for it and the viewers carried it through. The selfie with celebrities such as Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Lupita Nyong’o, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, half of Jared Leto’s face and Lupita’s brother crashed Twitter, with over a million retweets in less than an hour. Only Ellen.

 

2. Pharrell Gets “Happy”

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Pharrell’s performance of “Happy” was a great choice towards the beginning of the ceremony while the celebrities were still enjoying themselves (for the most part). Dozens of actors got out of their seats to dance along with the catchy tune, including the lovely Lupita Nyong’o. Which reminds me…

 

3. Lupita Nyong’o

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We all know Jennifer Lawrence is beloved by everyone and is arguably the biggest female movie star at the moment, but March 2, 2014 was the night of Lupita Nyong’o. Beautifully dressed and taking in every moment at the Oscars, Nyong’o made the world smile especially when she accepted the award for Best Supporting Actress. Beginning with, “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s,” and ending her speech with, “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” It was a touching and great moment.

Overall, it was a fine telecast. For those who are still complaining how long the Oscars were, it was ten minutes shorter than the Grammy’s, so deal with it. While there weren’t many surprises in an awards standpoint, the night was sure entertaining enough to make it through without falling asleep. Now the question is, who’s going to win next year’s Best Picture?


Predictions: The 86th Academy Awards

February 25, 2014

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We’re just a couple days away from the 86th Academy Awards! Are you excited?! Well you should be! Ellen is hosting, so you should expect some clean but entertaining humor throughout the night since she’s always a pleasure. On top of that, this is arguably one of the most unpredictable years, especially for big awards such as Best Picture and Best Lead Actor. In this post, I’m going to attempt to predict who WILL win while my buddy, Mike, will give his take on who SHOULD win. Let’s go!

Best Picture

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Rob: This might be the toughest match-up of the entire night, but hey you get to save the best for last! This is a race between three movies: American Hustle, Gravity, and 12 Years a Slave. Each of them have reasons why they will win, which I have explored in previous posts. When it comes down to it, I just have to go with my gut. My gut is saying that there is a pretty decent chance that American Hustle can go through the entire night without winning an award. The record is held by The Turning Point (1977) and The Color Purple (1985) for having 11 nominations each, but laying a goose egg. American Hustle is nominated for 10 awards and has the best chance at winning Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Costume Design. I do feel like Lawrence will win her second Oscar though, beating out Nyong’o, so that takes care of the shut out.

As for Gravity and its 10 nominations, it’s set to win the most awards of the night, there’s no question about that. It should win most of the technical categories, along with Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron. The question is, if over 60% of the time the Best Picture and Best Director lines up, then why isn’t Gravity a heavy favorite to win Best Picture? Frankly, I have no idea. 12 Years a Slave seems to have that “important” factor, the one movie that everyone thinks SHOULD win. If you’re going to take the Oscars seriously, you’ll most likely vote for 12 Years a Slave. But for Gravity, the one thing it has going is how it’s generally liked by everyone. It’s not the difficult and violent picture that 12 Years a Slave is, and it’s much deeper and inspiring than the loose and fun American Hustle. If Gravity can rack up a good number of #2 and #3 votes during the preferential voting, then Gravity will take the big award.

But my prediction has to go with 12 Years a Slave, no matter how many awards Gravity wins throughout the night. It has good momentum going into the weekend and has the every-so-important PGA award (though Gravity also won). And when it comes down to it, 12 Years a Slave is the most emotional film of the Best Picture nominees. Sure, it’s a smaller film but it connects with the audience more than Gravity or American Hustle. You can almost make a connection to when The Hurt Locker beat Avatar. Avatar and Gravity are both 3-D heavy movies, and for one, the Academy might not be ready to reward a 3-D film yet. But more importantly, The Hurt Locker and 12 Years a Slave are familiar with its story-telling. Both films were considered “important” and “emotional”, both didn’t gross that much money compared to their Goliath rivals, and The Hurt Locker made history with Kathryn Bigelow being the first woman director ever to win. If 12 Years a Slave wins, it will consist of the first African American producers, actors, screenwriter, and director to win. I think everyone is aware of this and I feel like this isn’t going to be a situation like Brokeback Mountain where the Academy shied away from a tough subject matter. I feel that The Academy is ready to reward such a monumental film.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave

Mike: So after I made all my picks to the categories leading up to Best Picture, you’ll see that I clearly think Gravity should win. Gravity was just a superior film. You could say the acting was a bit weak in comparison to other nominees, and I might be inclined to agree with you, but that doesn’t overshadow the fact that Gravity was superior in almost every other category. To have a film that exceeds expectations at every turn, well some could say that’s “not of this Earth.” I loved Gravity because it is a film I will surely watch over and over again. I really hope it wins the Oscar, but if it doesn’t, it still won the Oscar in my heart.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Director

David O. Russell – American Hustle
Alfonso Cuarón – Gravity
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Rob: It’s hard not to pick Alfonso Cuaron here, especially since he’s won so many awards leading up to the Oscars. How do you not appreciate the brilliance that Gravity is, from a directorial standpoint? Could anyone else made such a fascinating and beautiful movie?

Will Win: Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)

Mike: Marty! for the win!!!!! Lets face it, Marty Scorsese is the MAN! Plain and simple. I wasn’t sure based off the previews and a three hour run-time that I wanted to even see The Wolf of Wall Street. But I did see it, and it was awesome! It was not only hilarious and incredibly well acted, but the pace of the film was spectacular. I left the theater and only felt like I was in there for 45 minutes! If that is saying something, then it’s good directing.  He knew how to pace the story and how to get the perfect performances out of his actors. Wolf was just a fun ride to watch. They should call him Marty Oscor-sese

Should Win: Martin Scorsese

Best Actor

Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Rob: Aside from the Best Picture race, this might be the closest category and one with a lot of upset potential. The whole year, McConaughey has been sweeping up the awards for Best Actor, including the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards (which DiCaprio wasn’t nominated). Meanwhile, Chiwetel Ejiofor has been the critics’ darling, winning the majority of their awards for his powerful performance. But here’s the twist! Leonardo DiCaprio has taken the scene by storm, offering an even bigger possible surprise come March 2. DiCaprio has been floating under the radar all season long because of the late release date for The Wolf of Wall Street. But by now, everyone has seen the Scorsese masterpiece. There is certainly a lot of love for Leo in The Academy and he’s definitely due for an Oscar. But is there a hotter actor than McConaughey at the moment? All three men are deserving for this award, but which one will take it?

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Mike: I think Leo should win for Best Actor. Why you ask? Leo is possibly the only true movie star left in Hollywood. Plus, the man gives an incredible performance in Scorsese’s film. Just when I thought he couldn’t get any better, he goes and knocks it out of the park. His performance led us into the mind of a money-hungry individual who will stop at nothing to preserve himself. He was giving us a class in masters acting.

Should Win: Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Actress

Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Rob: There’s no contest here.

Will Win: Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine

Mike: I think Meryl Streep should win. Because its Meryl freaking Streep! She was great in August: Osage county who plays a character you hate and yet somehow can relate to. Another home run performance from the master herself. That’s all I have to say about that.

Should Win: Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

Best Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Rob: There’s not much to write about this category. While there are some great performances nominated, Jared Leto is a lock to win.

Will win: Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Mike: I think anyone BUT Jared Leto should win. I know Leto will end up winning this category and I think he did a great job in Dallas Buyers Club. But I think every other single nominee did a better acting job than he did. Abdi did an amazing job as a pirate in Captain Phillips. Bradley Cooper was awesome in American Hustle. You really believed he was naive and power hungry throughout the film. Michael Fassbender was scary good in 12 Years a Slave. He is almost too convincing as a slave owner. And as for Jonah Hill… if you would have told me 3 years ago that Jonah Hill would be a two-time Oscar nominee, I woulds slapped you in the face and laughed. But damn can that kid bring it. He was awesome in Wolf of Wall Street and I think he edges out the rest of the competition.

Should Win: Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Rob: We have quite a race in this category between Lupita Nyong’o and Jennifer Lawrence. Nyong’o is the new kid on the block since 12 Years a Slave is her first film, while it’s safe to say that Jennifer Lawrence has been the most popular actress for the past few years. Lawrence won the Golden Globes, but Nyong’o won the SAG award. This is practically a coin flip if you ask me. If 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture, it should win a few other big awards such as this one. But then again, like I said earlier this might be American Hustle’s best chance at winning an Oscar. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to see Jennifer Lawrence trip up the stairs to the podium again?

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle

Mike: I think Lupita Nyong’o should win for Best Supporting Actress. She nailed her part in 12 Years a Slave and I felt horrible for her character and what she had to go through, especially having a slave owner like Fassbender who was using her in the wort ways possible. Her performance was haunting and will not be easily forgotten for years to come.

Should Win: Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave

Best Original Screenplay

American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers Club
Her
Nebraska

Rob: This will be David O. Russell’s third nomination for a screenplay category, but he’s up against the slight favorite, Spike Jonze for his screenplay for Her. This is Jonze’s first nomination for a screenplay, but he has a lot of support from the WGA. All signs are pointing at Jonze to win his first Oscar since he’s already won the Golden Globes for Best Screenplay and the WGA. Russell is certainly a spoiler possibility since there is still plenty of support for American Hustle, but I think Jonze will and should win.

Will Win: Her (Spike Jonze)

Mike: Possibly my favorite category every year, I think Her should win this category. The writing in this film was simply awesome. It’s full of down to earth crude humor, including phone sex, plus talking computers, and yet still managed to be incredibly moving and emotional. If that isn’t great writing then I don’t know what is. Jonze took a traditional story and re-imagined it with something that has been done to death, yet this still take seemed fresh and fascinating. It also did a great job of capturing a feel of where we are going to be very soon in society. This is awesome times ten.

Should Win: Her (Spike Jonze)

Best Adapted Screenplay

Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Rob: This is John Ridley’s to win for 12 Years a Slave. Ridley has been nominated once before for co-writing Three Kings with David O. Russell, but this is his year to shine.

Will Win: 12 Years a Slave (John Ridley)

Mike: Wolf of Wall Street should win for Best Adapted Screenplay. This was one of the funniest films of the year, and I don’t think there is a single joke in the film. That’s quite an accomplishment that takes good writing. There were also some really good monologues for both DiCaprio and McConaughey, and just a general tone with words that was fun to listen to. Also lets not forget to mention it had the most uses of the F word, ever. That sounds like an Oscar to me!

Should Win: The Wolf of Wall Street

Best Score

The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

Rob: Gravity is favorite to win this category, like it is with most of the technical categories. Though there is a slight road block in its way in the shape and form of the rock star power of William Butler (Arcade Fire). Butler and Owen Pallett scored Her, a film that is certaily beloved by many, which means it could make a serious push to try to win at least one award (though I still think its best chance is for Best Original Screenplay). Also, the legend that is John Williams is nominated for his work on The Book Thief. This is his 49th nomination!

Will Win: Gravity

Mike: Gravity should win here, in my opinion. A small part of the reason I’m picking Gravity is because none of the other nominees really jumped out at me. Where is American Hustle’s nomination? Or even The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Both of those films had really cool original scores. Anyway, Gravity had a very different feel to the score. There were a lot of violins and it really felt kind of mechanical, which blended really well with the visuals of the film.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Original Song

“Happy” from Despicable Me 2
“Let It Go” from Frozen
“The Moon Song” from Her
“Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“Alone, Yet Not Alone” from Alone Yet Not Alone

Rob: Frozen’s “Let It Go” is certainly the favorite, and it definitely deserves the award, but just like the Best Score category there is an obstacle in its way… the star power of U2 will try and upset the front-runner. U2’s “Ordinary Love” in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom won the Golden Globes award for Best Original Song, in the year that the great Nelson Mandela passed away. While I’m sticking with my gut, there is a strong stench of upset all over this.

Will Win: “Let It Go”

Mike: “Let It Go” from Frozen should win here.This movie was just a massive hit and that has a lot to do with the songs, with “Let It Go” as the stand-out selection. It’s being touted as the best animated film in a long time, and I’d have to agree with that. Also, it helps having a Broadway veteran belt out this powerful girl-power tune.

Should Win: “Let It Go”

Best Film Editing

American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Rob: This one is a two-way race between Gravity and Captain Phillips. In Captain Phillips’ corner, Christopher Rouse has worked with director Paul Greengrass before. Rouse has won an Oscar for The Bourne Ultimatum, and also received a nod for United 93. Greengrass and Rouse are known for their very quick cuts and fast editing to enhance suspense and tension in a frantic way. Meanwhile, Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger edited Gravity. Cuaron has been nominated once before for Children of Men. What really has made my mind is how this award tends to go towards thrillers. Past winners include Argo, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Slumdog Millionaire. Captain Phillips fits into this group of films more than Gravity does.

Will Win: Captain Phillips

Mike: OK, by now its going to seem as if i am very bias toward this movie, but again I think Gravity should win. My reasoning for this is while watching the movie I wasn’t aware of the “cuts” during the film. It seemed seamless. The transitions just weren’t noticeable, and when you watch a film that is a rare occurrence. Plus, to really make all the action in space feel believable, that includes plenty of editing tricks. Overall, Gravity has accomplished movie magic unlike any movie before.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Cinematography

The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

Rob: Once again, Gravity is the heavy favorite here. Emmanuel Lubezki is a great cinematographer and his work in Gravity is simply stunning. He’s been nominated five times before for films such as The Tree of Life and Children of Men, but has yet to win. You can say that he’s over-due.

Spoiler Alert: Roger Deakins is nominated for his work in Prisoners. This is Deakin’s 11th nomination for Best Cinematography and he has yet to win! Will The Academy finally award Deakins the award that has eluded him for two decades? Some of his works include The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men, and Skyfall. Honestly, if Deakins steals this one from Gravity, I wouldn’t be upset.

Will Win: Gravity

Mike: Gravity should win for Best Cinematography. First of all, it’s a tragedy that The Wolf of Wall Street was snubbed from this category! But Gravity is a visually awesome film, you just cannot deny that. The wide shots of Earth, fixed in with the backgrounds of space really makes for some great eye candy that the cinematography had to imagine on his own while filming. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. So my pick goes to Gravity.

Should Win: Gravity

Best Visual Effects

Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Rob: I’m not sure if there isn’t a more sure bet than this category. Gravity will certainly win this award.

Win Win: Gravity

Mike: Gravity should win this award, hands down! This was a film that made me feel like I was in outer space. Not that I was watching people in space, but that I was actually floating around myself! This is just a masterfully orchestrated visual landscape between space and Earth that left my brain gasping for oxygen. Beautiful!

Should Win: Gravity

Best Sound Editing

All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

Best Sound Mixing

Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

Rob: These awards should be towards the beginning of the telecast and when when Gravity will start racking up the awards. Being nominated for all 7 technical categories, there’s no doubt that Gravity was an amazing visual and special effects masterpiece. It shouldn’t have any problem winning these, especially when one movie usually ends up winning both awards, such as impressive technical films like Inception and Hugo.

Will Win: Gravity/Gravity

Mike: Let me preface both of these categories by saying it is next to impossible to identify how well thse jobs are done when watching a film in theaters. That being said, I think Gravity should win for Sound Editing because there were so many different elements of sound that needed to be keenly edited in order to sound realistic. Whether it was the breathing of Sandra Bullock or the jet thrusters on George Clooney, these sounds were very specific to the environment they were in.

Also, Gravity should win for Best Sound Mixing. They were able to combine all the different sounds so smoothly. It made for an acoustically believable film.

Should Win: Gravity/Gravity

Best Costume Design

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman

Rob: Period films usually win this award, so it looks like it’s going to be American Hustle vs. The Great Gatsby here. It’s really tough not to pick The Great Gatsby for both categories, especially since Catherine Martin is a past winner. But then again, there’s Patricia Norris (12 Years a Slave) who is a six-time Oscar nominee seeking her first golden statue. While American Hustle has a better chance upsetting than 12 Years a Slave does, I think Martin will win Best Costume Design.

Will Win: The Great Gatsby

Mike: American Hustle should win Best Costume Design. The film did a great job of re-creating the period and the costumes really  made me feel like they were in the ’80s. If I could pick a close second it would be 12 Years a Slave, because they also did a great job re-creating the period.

Should Win: American Hustle

Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

Rob: I can’t see Dallas Buyers Club losing this category, unless voters feel that the actors did most of the work by losing weight. I guess there’s a chance that Bad Grandpa can pull off the upset, but honestly, I can’t predict anyone else than DBC here.

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club

Mike: I really feel like The Lone Ranger should win here. My simple reason is because there was the most amount of work to be done in this film. You have two versions of Johnny Depp’s Tonto, and both required a lot of makeup and hairstyling. It was a really well done job and I think better than the other nominees.

Should Win: The Lone Ranger

Best Production Design

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her

Rob: Let’s face it, Best Production Design has rarely gone to the winner of Best Picture. So it’s almost safe to say we can simply rule out 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity right from the get-go. In the past 10 years, six winners have been period pieces (Lincoln, Hugo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Pan’s Labyrinth, Memoirs of a Geisha, and The Aviator). Of the past four years, three of the winners have been quite colorful and” cartoonish” (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Hugo). Also, Catherine Martin (The Great Gatsby) has already won two Oscars for her work on Moulin Rouge!, another Baz Luhrmann film. I think it’s pretty safe to say The Great Gatsby will win this award.

Will Win: The Great Gatsby

Mike: I think The Great Gatsby should win. With art deco inspirations, it created almost a cartoon version of the 1920’s era. I felt every detail, from hair, makeup, costume, sets, and especially color throughout the film. There must’ve been a lot of work that went into the production and to me it’s the best.

Should Win: The Great Gatsby

Best Animated Feature

The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Rob: Frozen was one of the biggest films of the year, that cannot be disputed. It’s strange not to have a Pixar film nominated, but this is Disney’s chance to pounce (when it should’ve won last year as well for Wreck-It Ralph). There’s a slight spoiler alert in The Wind Rises, supposedly Hayao Miyazaki’s last film.

Will Win: Frozen

All right, well those are my picks. There were some categories that I didn’t focus on, but my picks are:

Best Foreign Language Film: The Great Beauty
Best Documentary: The Act of Killing
Best Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6
Best Live Action Short: The Voorman Problem
Best Animated Short: Get a Horse!

Anyway, let’s see how the ceremony goes on March 2. Hopefully I get at least 17 predictions correct. Will it be a complete Gravity sweep, including Best Picture? Will 12 Years a Slave win the most Oscars of the night, taking Best Pic, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress? Will American Hustle shock everyone and win its major categories?

Only time will tell.


American Hustle for Best Picture?

February 11, 2014

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We’re almost two weeks away from the Academy Awards, and I’m not going to stop scrutinizing them up until the ceremony. That being said, I still feel like American Hustle is going to win Best Picture, but that can easily change since this race is the closest in a very long time.

Do you want a statistic? Since 1960, there have been seven films (prior to this year) that have had nominations in all four acting categories:

1966 – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
1967 – Bonnie and Clyde
1967 – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
1976 – Network
1978 – Coming Home
1981 – Reds
2012 – Silver Linings Playbook

Out of these seven films, guess how many won Best Picture? ZERO. Yes, even the year where two films had all four acting category nominees, neither of them won Best Picture. Will the trend continue, or can you say that American Hustle is over-due?

In Oscar History, American Hustle is the 15th film to have all four acting category nominations, and only two wound up winning Best Picture. So it’s not like it’s impossible, but you would think that receiving all those noms, they’d be a front-runner for Best Picture, unless it’s really not that big of a deal to the rest of the Academy.

So what am I saying? Well, actors usually thank their directors for their recognition. In the past two years, David O. Russell has scored EIGHT Oscar nominations for his actors. Has that ever happened before? Someone look that up for me, but I doubt it. While it looks like Alfonso Cuaron is in the lead for Best Director, American Hustle could very well be the first film to win Best Picture but lose on all of its acting nominations. It’s that tight and crazy of a year.

Hey, it can happen.


2014 Screen Actors Guild Award Winners

January 20, 2014

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The SAG is the largest guild who vote for the Oscars, and that’s exactly the reason why people pay close attention to the SAG awards. The nominees for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture were:

12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Dallas Buyers Club
Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Of these nominees, 12 Years a Slave and American Hustle are favorites for Best Picture, though Dallas Buyers Club is certainly gaining momentum with its support for McConaughey and Leto. But when they announced the winner, the front-runner took the award, American Hustle. Does this make it the clear favorite to win Best Picture? At the moment, yes.

Here are the other winners from the ceremony (winners are in bold):

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

Bruce Dern (Nebraska)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips)
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Forest Whitaker (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Sandra Bullock (Gravity)
Judi Dench (Philomena)
Meryl Streep (August: Osage County)
Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips)
Daniel Bruhl (Rush)
Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
Jared Leto (Dallas Buyers Club)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave)
Julia Roberts (August: Osage County)
June Squibb (Nebraska)
Oprah Winfrey (Lee Daniels’ The Butler)

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture

All is Lost
Fast & Furious 6
Lone Survivor
Rush
The Wolverine

It’s noteworthy that Jennifer Lawrence didn’t win the Supporting Actress category, falling to Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave). This will be a huge shift to what everyone thought was a lock for Lawrence to win her second Oscar. Nyong’o might be 12 Years a Slave’s best chance at snagging a Top 6 Oscar award, and people may very well vote that way.

Here are the TV awards from the night

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Matt Damon (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Michael Douglas (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Jeremy Irons (“The Hollow Crown”)
Rob Lowe (“Killing Kennedy”)
Al Pacino (“Phil Spector”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries

Angela Bassett (“Betty & Coretta”)
Helena Bonham Carter (“Burton and Taylor”)
Holly Hunter (“Top of the Lake”)
Helen Mirren (“Phil Spector”)
Elisabeth Moss (“Top of the Lake”)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series

Steve Buscemi (“Boardwalk Empire”)
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”)
Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series

Claire Danes (“Homeland”)
Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”)
Jessica Lange (“American Horror Story: Coven”)
Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”)
Kerry Washington (“Scandal”)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series

“Boardwalk Empire”
“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“Game of Thrones”
“Homeland”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series

Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”)
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series

Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”)
Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”)
Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”)
Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series

“30 Rock”
“Arrested Development”
“The Big Bang Theory”
“Modern Family”
“Veep”

Outstanding Action Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series

“Boardwalk Empire”
“Breaking Bad”
“Game of Thrones”
“Homeland”
“The Walking Dead”


Golden Globes Awards 2014 Predictions

January 10, 2014

goldenglobes

The 71st Golden Globes Awards will take place this Sunday. Being the first major awards show, the Globes really have no pressure on them, which is the point exactly. Where else could you gather a large amount of the past year’s movie and TV stars in one hall with dinner and most importantly, with drinks being poured. That’s what makes it a must-watch, fun ceremony, compared to the mostly serious (and more prestigious) Academy Awards.

Anyway, here are my predictions for the Golden Globes Awards:

Best Motion Picture (Drama)

“12 Years a Slave”
“Captain Phillips”
“Gravity”
“Philomena”
“Rush”

Prediction: “12 Years a Slave”

This race is between 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, arguably the two best films of the year. While Gravity is likely the more popular pick, I’m going with my gut and predicting 12 Years a Slave. What hurts its chances is how it’s a hard movie to watch with its subject and gruesome violence. And the Golden Globes usually goes with the more popular choice. Gravity is one of the highest grossing films of the year and is definitely the more popular option, but I’m still predicting a minor upset.

Best Motion Picture (Musical/Comedy)

“American Hustle”
“Her”
“Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Nebraska”
“The Wolf of Wall Street”

Prediction: “American Hustle”

While the category is full of great films, I feel like this is a slam dunk for American Hustle. It’s one of the Oscar front-runners (the other two are in the Drama category) and should win the Globes award easily.

Best Actress in a motion picture (Drama)

Cate Blanchett – “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock – “Gravity”
Judi Dench – “Philomena
Emma Thompson – “Saving Mr. Banks”
Kate Winslet – “Labor Day”

Prediction: Cate Blanchett – “Blue Jasmine”

Blanchett is the clear front-runner during the awards season and should win here. Bullock and Dench could upset, but I’d say it’s very unlikely.

Best Actor in a motion picture (Drama)

Chiwetel Ejiofor – “12 Years a Slave”
Idris Elba – “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom”
Tom Hanks – “Captain Phillips”
Matthew McConaughey – “Dallas Buyers Club”
Robert Redford – “All Is Lost”

Prediction: Chiwetel Ejiofor – “12 Years a Slave”

McConaughey has been receiving a lot of attention and could very well win this award because let’s face it, he’s a lot more popular than Ejiofor. But Ejiofor, without a doubt, gave the most emotional performance of the year and should be rewarded for it. Meanwhile, Redford plays the dark horse for All is Lost, as he’s the only actor in the physically draining film.

Best Actress in a motion picture (Musical/Comedy)

Amy Adams – “American Hustle”
Julie Delpy – “Before Midnight”
Greta Gerwig – “Frances Ha”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Enough Said”
Meryl Streep – “August: Osage County”

Prediction: Greta Gerwig – “Frances Ha”

All signs are pointing to Meryl Streep, because well she’s Meryl Streep. Amy Adams is probably second to her in this category because she was really able to carry American Hustle more than any of her co-stars. But I’m going with the upset here and saying Greta Gerwig will win. It’ll put her and the underrated Frances Ha on the map towards the Academy Awards.

Best Actor in a motion picture (Musical/Comedy)

Christian Bale – “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern – “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio – “The Wolf Of Wall Street”
Oscar Isaac – “Inside Llewyn Davis”
Joaquin Phoenix – “Her”

Prediction: Bruce Dern – “Nebraska”

Did I mention how the Musical/Comedy categories are stacked? All of these actors deserve to win the award. I’m assuming the Globes are going to pass on Phoenix and Isaac and concentrate on the bigger names of the group. This definitely puts DiCaprio up there, but my gut’s telling me that Bruce Dern is going to win.

Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture

Sally Hawkins – “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence – “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o – “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts – “August: Osage County”
June Squibb – “Nebraska”

Prediction: Jennifer Lawrence – “American Hustle”

Here we have another race between two youngsters. Jennifer Lawrence was a stand-out in American Hustle and already with an Oscar statue from last year, she’s practically a veteran. But Lupita Nyong’o gave such a powerful performance in 12 Years a Slave, you just can’t ignore it. Since this is the Globes, I’m guessing Lawrence will edge out the win.

Best Supporting Actor in a motion picture

Barkhad Abdi – “Captain Phillips”
Daniel Brühl – “Rush”
Bradley Cooper – “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender – “12 Years a Slave”
Jared Leto – “Dallas Buyers Club”

Prediction: Jared Leto – “Dallas Buyers Club”

Leto is the clear favorite here and will have his chances even higher if McConaughey isn’t seen as a front-runner in his race. Like McConaughey, Leto transformed himself physically for the role in Dallas Buyers Club and is arguably the most memorable part of the movie.

Best Director – motion picture

Alfonso Cuarón – “Gravity”
Paul Greengrass – “Captain Phillips”
Steve McQueen – “12 Years a Slave”
Alexander Payne – “Nebraska”
David O. Russell – “American Hustle”

Prediction: Alfonso Cuarón – “Gravity”

I can’t imagine Alfonso Cuaron not being recognized for the feat he accomplished in Gravity, a picture that no director has even attempted before. He was able to wow you with his advance technology and also have a complex, emotional story-line with a handful of suspenseful twists. It’s simply the most impressive work of any director this year.

Best Screenplay – motion picture

Spike Jonze – “Her”
Bob Nelson – “Nebraska”
Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan – “Philomena”
John Ridley – “12 Years a Slave”
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell – “American Hustle”

Prediction: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell – “American Hustle”

While I really would love to see Spike Jonze take this award, I can only imagine American Hustle receiving a big boost of momentum after the Golden Globes, and winning Best Screenplay will surely help.

Best Foreign Language Film

“Blue is the Warmest Color”
“The Great Beauty”
“The Hunt”
“The Past”
“The Wind Rises”

Prediction: “The Hunt”

This could go to either The Hunt, The Past, or the challenging Blue is the Warmest Color. I’m thinking The Hunt will edge out the others.

Best Animated Feature Film

“The Croods”
“Despicable Me 2”
“Frozen”

Prediction: “Frozen”

This is a no-brainer.

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“Atlas” – “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”
“Let It Go” – “Frozen”
“Ordinary Love” – “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
“Please Mr. Kennedy” – “Inside Llewyn Davis”
“Sweeter Than Fiction” – “One Chance”

Prediction: “Let It Go” – “Frozen”

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

Alex Ebert – “All is Lost”
Alex Heffes – “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Steven Price – “Gravity”
John Williams – “The Book Thief”
Hans Zimmer – “12 Years a Slave”

Prediction: Steven Price – “Gravity”

Television Categories

Best TV Series (Drama)

“Breaking Bad”
“Downton Abbey”
“The Goodwife”
“House of Cards”
“Masters of Sex”

Prediction: Breaking Bad

How can Breaking Bad lose this category? One of the best dramas of all-time finally comes to an end. The Globes will reward it.

Best TV Series (Comedy)

“The Big Bang Theory”
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
“Girls”
“Modern Family”
“Parks and Recreation”

Prediction: Modern Family

We’re sort of beating the dead horse on this one, but I don’t see how it’ll be any different. Girls could big for an upset. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a favorite, but I can’t see a new show beating out the rest in this category.

Best TV movie or mini-series

“American Horror Story: Coven”
“Behind the Candelabra”
“Dancing on the Edge”
“Top of the Lake”
“The White Queen”

Prediction: “Behind the Candelabra”

Best Actress in a TV series (Drama)

Julianna Margulies – “The Good Wife”
Tatiana Maslany – “Orphan Black”
Taylor Schilling – “Orange is the New Black”
Kerry Washington – “Scandal”
Robin Wright – “House of Cards”

Prediction: Kerry Washington – “Scandal”

Best Actor in a TV series (Drama)

Bryan Cranston – “Breaking Bad”
Liev Schreiber – “Ray Donovan”
Michael Sheen – “Masters of Sex”
Kevin Spacey – “House of Cards”
James Spader – “The Blacklist”

Prediction: Bryan Cranston – “Breaking Bad”

Best Actress in a TV Series (Comedy)

Zooey Deschanel – “New Girl”
Lena Dunham – “Girls”
Edie Falco – “Nurse Jackie”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Veep”
Amy Poehler – “Parks and Recreation”

Prediction: Julia Louis-Dreyfus – “Veep”

Best Actor, TV Series (Comedy)

Jason Bateman – “Arrested Development”
Don Cheadle – “House of Lies”
Michael J. Fox – “The Michael J. Fox Show”
Jim Parsons – “The Big Bang Theory”
Andy Samberg – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”

Prediction: Michael J. Fox – “The Michael J. Fox Show”

Best Actress in a mini-series or TV movie

Helena Bonham Carter – “Burton and Taylor”
Rebecca Ferguson – “White Queen”
Jessica Lange – “American Horror Story: Coven”
Helen Mirren – “Phil Spector”
Elisabeth Moss – “Top of the Lake”

Prediction: Elisabeth Moss – “Top of the Lake”

Best Actor in a mini-series or TV movie

Matt Damon – “Behind the Candelabra”
Michael Douglas – “Behind the Candelabra”
Chiwetel Ejiofor – “Dancing on the Edge”
Idris Elba – “Luther”
Al Pacino – “Phil Spector”

Prediction: Michael Douglas – “Behind the Candelabra”

Best Supporting Actress in a series, mini-series, or TV movie

Jacqueline Bisset – “Dancing on the Edge”
Janet McTeer – “White Queen”
Hayden Panettiere – “Nashville”
Monica Potter – “Parenthood”
Sofia Vergara – “Modern family”

Prediction: Monica Potter – “Parenthood”

Best Supporting Actor in a series, mini-series or TV movie

Josh Charles – “The Good Wife”
Rob Lowe- “Behind the Candelabra”
Aaron Paul – “Breaking Bad”
Corey Stoll – “House of Cards”
Jon Voight -” Ray Donovan”

Prediction: Jon Voight -” Ray Donovan”


Movie Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

November 30, 2013

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
146 minutes
Rated PG-13
Directed by Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth

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Grade: B+

The first film of the franchise surpassed all expectations, so it’s not a surprise that the same cast, with a good story and an increase in budget can deliver the goods once again. Directed by Francis Lawrence (Constantine, I Am Legend) the pace is a lot better than the first installment, which at times was sluggish but with movies like this it’s impossible not to spend half the movie displaying the rules and the world the characters live in. Gary Ross did a very good job with The Hunger Games, but Catching Fire is certainly an upgrade.

Led by Jennifer Lawrence, her Katniss is the hope for a better future in the world of Panem. Fresh off her victory with fellow District 12 resident Peeta, they’re preparing for their victory tour where they will visit every district and face the families of those who died during the battle royale. But the conflict between Katniss and her best friend Gale has never been more complicated because of the love-for-show with Peeta. While it’s not surprising that Katniss and Peeta are forced back into the death arena, the real mystery throughout is where Katniss’ heart lies.

The love triangle isn’t a distraction like it is in the Twilight franchise. This works in The Hunger Games because there are much larger things at stake for Katniss, which involves leading a potential uprising against the evil empire and also trying to stay alive in the fight to the death. But it’s the romance story that you can relate too, along root for or against. These layers in the plot are what makes The Hunger Games compelling for tweens to adults.

Throwing away a lot of the shaky cam that made the original dizzying, the action scenes are handled with a lot more precision (of course, the budget helped too). What’s most impressive about Lawrence’s direction in Catching Fire is how he made 146 minutes pass by so quickly. Sure, the action and violence during the second half passed by like we all expected, but even the first half with the tour, the focus on the families, Katniss’ relationship to District 12 and the pre-game shows passed by like a breeze. And this all stems from what you need from the beginning for a good movie, which is a good story.

There aren’t certain performances that really stand out in Catching Fire, but that’s not a bad thing because the plot-heavy production should be the thing that takes first priority. In fact, if a movie can make actors like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and Stanley Tucci seem hidden, it’s done with great focus on the story. Even the Oscar-winning Jennifer Lawrence can’t match up to the power of the world of Panem, though she is able to handle her scenes the best.

While the film concludes rather abruptly, it stays true to the books and that will make most fans happy. It’s also a cliffhanger that’ll have you wishing the next sequel was already completed so you wouldn’t have to wait another year to see what happens. Two films down and two films to go. So far, The Hunger Games is doing everything right.


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